Utilitarian vs. Perfectionist

Photo Claudia Camila

By Eduardo N. Cordovi Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES – My friend Orizabal is someone who isn’t anything like me; because he is like me, but backwards.

My friend gives importance to the same things I do, but I don’t give them so much importance. I admire him for that, and I know that he admires me for the same thing. I’d like to be like him, I just don’t have the time. He’d like to be like me, he just doesn’t have the courage.

Orizabal, like myself, is self-sufficient. If we need a chair, we make one; if we like a painting, we paint it and if we prefer a certain song, we sing it. Another thing we share is that we do everything with our own resources. If we’re going to make a chair and we don’t have a saw, we’ll make it with a hand-saw. If we don’t have oil paints or a canvas, we’ll paint with crayons on cardboard. And if our mouths are full with a piece of candy for the song; then, we clap our hands or hum along: Mmm…mmm..mm..

The difference between us lies in the fact that if we build a chair, he will research the history of every furniture style, he’ll look for precious wood and put it together and pull it apart every time he sees a flaw. If he paints a painting, he’ll study design again, perspective, every pictorial technique. When it comes to the song, he’ll enroll in the conservatory of music for a course in music theory, rhythm and harmony, even if he’s just going to whistle it.

Not me.

If I need a chair, I’m OK with just being able to sit on it. I’d like it to be pretty, long-lasting, just like his, but I don’t have the time. For the painting, I’m good with something I like and the same goes for the song. The difference is that I finish everything first and I have time to enjoy what I made. In the time he makes a chair, I make a whole set, I paint a gallery of paintings, sing three songs and whistle along to two concerts. Enjoying myself. This constant enjoyment is what he admires in me.

But when he begins to enjoy his masterpiece, he realizes that the chair has a square that is a millimeter off, or that he hasn’t polished the back properly. In short, when he’s done with it, everyone is blown away by what they see. But he has this inner distress of not being able to make it better, because he didn’t have the ideal tools. He is satisfied with other people’s appreciation, but this doesn’t exceed his expectations for himself, which he never reaches.

I’d like things I do and make to come out half as good as they do for him. But I setlle for sitting on my box to rest. I don’t care if it falls to pieces with termites one day, or if it comes apart next month or if somebody laughs.

My friend (and many others) think I’m sloppy, but he also knows that if I’m a bungler, then I’m at least satisfied, if not happy. This is what he admires about me. But he can’t explain what I’m satisfied about, because I’m a bungler that could be a lot less sloppy.

The thing is, everything I do, isn’t to make it perfect. Nor is it to do a sloppy job. I’m good with making something that is useful. Everything I make and do is because I need it. If it doesn’t crystallize into what people consider a work of art, that’s because I need time to do something else, which I also need. Stopping and obsessing on one thing is a liberty I can’t afford.

Sometimes, I think about my friend Orizabal. I’m curious to dig into his life story. The search for perfection, his constant non-conformity with himself. Constantly setting goals above his ability to excecute them. The way he doesn’t understand his logical limitations, his unhappiness. It makes me sad to see him trapped in this vicious cycle and sometimes, I’d like to make him see his mistake.

Luckily, I always realize I don’t have enough time.

What if… I was wrong? What if everyone else is right? I’m too wrapped up in my own life, to take on fixing other people’s.

The only thing I do is set an example with the way I live life. I don’t know why, but a phrase from a children’s story comes to mind that decrees: Cobbler, stick to your shoe!

Read more from the diary of Eduardo N. Cordovi here.

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